Protégés of LEAD Cohort 6
Lt Col William Y. Chang is the Chief of House Affairs, United States European Command (EUCOM). He collaborates directly with the House of Representatives to ensure full authorization of EUCOM’s annual budget. Lt Col Chang also prepares the Commander and other senior EUCOM leaders for engagements and testimony on Capitol Hill. Lt Col Chang received his commission from the United States Air Force Academy in 2006. He has served in a variety of positions from staff to command. Prior to his current assignment he was the Defense Fellow for Representative Henry Cuellar (TX-28). As the Defense Fellow, he was the principal advisor to the Congressman on all aspects of Defense. Lt Col Chang led Representative Cuellar’s appropriations efforts for both Defense and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies subcommittees.
George is a West Point graduate and former Army Infantry Officer. Following five years of military service, both at home and in Afghanistan, he earned his graduate degree while working as the legislative director for a Veteran non-profit organization in Washington, DC. He then transitioned to Facebook where he led implementation of machine learning solutions to optimize availability of global data infrastructure and served on the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Commission. George currently serves as a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow at the Department of Veterans Affairs where he has been a senior advisor to the VA’s Director of Artificial Intelligence and the Chief Technology Officer.
Jason Davidson is a student at the UNC School of Law and is currently working as a law clerk for Lawyers Serving Warriors™, a project of the National Veterans Legal Services Program which provides pro bono legal assistance to qualifying veterans for disability claims. Prior to attending law school, he served in the Army Infantry for 14 years, separating as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer. He has deployed and lived worldwide, including two combat deployments to the Nuristan and Kandahar provinces of Afghanistan, a peacekeeping mission to Kosovo, and as the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Advisor, Land Forces Division, to the Royal Saudi Land Forces, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His final assignment was working in the Army Enterprise as a Security Assistance Training Manager, Central Command Regional Operations, for the Security Assistance Training Management Organization. His personal decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal with five oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three campaign stars, Kosovo Campaign Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Parachutist Badge, Senior Parachutist Badge, and Pathfinder Badge. Jason holds a BA in Leadership in the Public Sector, and an MBA, with a graduate certificate in finance, from North Carolina State University. He currently resides in Pinehurst, NC with his wife and two children.
Christine Clemons Etheredge is a Gold Star Army Spouse, Active-Duty Naval Spouse; she is a native to North Carolina & a mom of 6. She is a mental health advocate for our servicemembers of the past, present & future, as well as the “voice for those who are afraid or unable to speak.” Christine earned the call sign of “The American Belle,” while advocating for Active-Duty members who were fighting the Department of Defense for proper mental health policies to be followed, as well as fighting for discrimination occurring in the military against the LGBTQ community. She is an entrepreneur & leader to CheerstoTheEmpire & WicklessEmpire11 and an Ambassador for several companies. As an active spouse in the Gold Star Community, Christine has helped several families through their trauma. She is a Domestic Violence Survivor & Advocate, as well as a volunteer for several organizations that serve our veteran community. She is a mission22 Ambassador, “Character does matter mentor” for the Travis Manion Foundation, TAPS Peer Mentor & the Creator & Co-Founder of the Facebook group to break the stigma on the mental health issues called “Elevate Yourself.” Christine graduated from Liberty University in May 2021 with her B.S. in Pre-law/politics, with a major in Pre-law and is currently pursuing her M.A. in Human Services Counseling: Crisis & Trauma with anticipated graduation May 2022. She plans to apply for law school to be an attorney for those who serve our great country, as well as counsel for adolescents or others who have been victims of Domestic Violence. She is advocating for “The Brandon Act,” & volunteered and helped execute the Brandon Vigil in Norfolk June 2021, as well as guest spoke at the event sharing her personal experiences & is a big supporter for accountability and change for the benefits of our servicemembers. Christine believes that by supporting this legislation, support & accountability would be provided to help all those who need mental health treatment, or any treatment that needs to remain confidential without retaliation and the ability to provide proper care for our men & women in uniform. Her motto is “Its okay to not be okay, & to never lose faith or hope because someone always has your six & her scars are her warpaint & if you believe it, you can do it.”
After graduating from the University of Colorado with a degree in Aerospace Engineering, Colonel (Retired) Dale Farrand began a 25-year Army career that saw him leading formations from the platoon to brigade level. He was fortunate to serve in Europe for seven years and deploy operationally to Haiti, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, and Iraq where he developed an appreciation for environmental impact on societies its significance to national security. Dale has served as the Army’s Capabilities Manager responsible for developing and defending Capabilities Needs Assessments supporting the acquisition and sustainment life cycle of both the Army’s current and future logistics information systems. He culminated his career as the Director of Customer Operations for the Department of Defense’s $35 billion-dollar annual business unit, the Defense Logistics Agency. He has served as a Vice President for Business Strategy in the Defense and Aerospace Industry since his retirement and currently runs the DoD’s Radio Frequency In-Transit Visibility program. Dale holds graduate degrees from the Army Command and General Staff College and the National Defense University.
A native of Sacramento, California, Jack Gaines was direct-commissioned into the U.S. Army before deploying to Iraq in 2008-2009 to work Public Diplomacy at the Kirkuk Provincial Reconstruction Team. From 2010 to 2017, he traveled to Europe, Africa, and Asia to work on communication, strategy, and policy, including an assignment to Embassy Kabul to lead the State Department’s counter Taliban influence program. During that time, Mr. Gaines also gained a Master’s degree in Communication Management from the University of Southern California, Annenberg. Transitioning with his wife, Julieta, to the National Capital region, Gaines joined Army Reserves and launched a civilian career as a strategy and policy consultant out of Nothern, Virginia. The combination allows Jack to continue to serve while also getting involved with policy advocacy groups like the OECD task force on illicit trade and trafficking and the Anticorruption Advocacy Network (ACAN) here in the region. Currently, Jack is involved with public and private efforts to help the U.S. respond to foreign-malign influence that targets the U.S. and international rules-based norms and corruption as a threat to national security.
Kelli Godfrey, LMSW is a doctoral candidate at the University of Alabama School of Social Work and focuses her service and research on military and veteran-connected populations. She is the daughter of a female Army veteran and was an Army spouse for 14 years. In addition to being a military family member for most of her life, Kelli worked for the US Army in various positions including providing services to Army soldiers and their families and as a victim advocate for survivors of military sexual assault through the SHARP program. She was also a Battalion-level and Brigade-level Family Readiness Support Assistant. Her current research is the Psychosocial Needs of Active Duty Service Members with Cancer and is funded by the American Cancer Society through their Doctoral Social Work Oncology Training Grant. Kelli has a BSW from Jacksonville State University, a MSW from University of New England, and will graduate with her PhD in Social Work from the University of Alabama in December 2021.
Upon earning a Master of Science and Engineering in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan, LT Evan Hendler commissioned in the Navy through the Nuclear Officer Propulsion Candidate (NUPOC) program as a submarine officer. He is currently serving as the Defense Fellow for Congressman Wittman of the Virginia First District, Ranking Member of the Seapower and Force Projection Subcommittee. After completing Naval Nuclear Power Training in Charleston, SC, LT Hendler reported to the USS Alaska (SSBN 732), homeported in King’s Bay, GA. He earned his qualification as Information Systems Security Manager, a position he held throughout his 42 months aboard. He embarked on three strategic deterrent patrols serving as Tactical Systems Officer, and completed his tour overseeing a 15-month, $90 million dollar overhaul as Quality Assurance Officer. LT Hendler was recognized for outstanding performance by Naval Reactors on his Prospective Nuclear Engineer Officer examination. His personal decorations include the Navy Commendation, Navy Achievement Medal, and various unit and campaign awards.
Yusuf Henriques is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IndyGeneUS AI. (pronounced indigenous) IndyGeneUS is a genomics company creating the world’s largest block-chain encrypted repository of indigenous and diasporic African clinical data for disease prevention and detection, drug discovery and development, clinical disease management, and precision health equity. As CEO, he leads strategic direction and partnerships as well as investor relations. A serial entrepreneur, Henriques has founded or advised many Fintech and Health Tech startup companies. Through a nonprofit,Black Tech Matters, he mentors 21 startup companies in a business accelerator. He leads strategy for CreditRich and WePool Inc. Henriques also founded CodeClear Ventures, a new platform of diagnostics and pathogen detection tests for SARSCoV-2 and other infectious diseases using quantum dots chemistries. Before CodeClear, Henriques founded TruGenomix Health Inc., an emerging precision genomics behavioral health company harnessing the power of genomics to improve risk prediction and diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The PTSD genomic assay (TruGen-1) that he developed used exclusive patented technology provided by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) and Max Planck Institute (MPI) and is now being piloted at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) hospitals nationwide to address the high rate of suicides in the veteran and active-duty population. Through collaboration with TruGenomix, the VA hopes to one day be able to identify genetic markers associated with PTSD and suicidal tendencies. Henriques spent two decades of progressive roles in the U.S. Army and civil government services. He enlisted in the U.S. Army at 17 years old and served as a Combat Medic (91B) for 6 years. His service included deployments in Afghanistan, Korea, Bosnia and Germany. He was honorably discharged due to service-connected injuries during deployments. The medical discharge changed the trajectory of his career, but his passion for healthcare and public service motivated him to serve, off the battlefield. As a consultant, Henriques advanced through many positions. He served as the director of Regulatory Affairs (GS-15) for SAIC (formerly known as Engility) at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), overseeing regulatory compliance strategies for multi-site clinical trials. Henriques also served as a subject matter expert in regulatory affairs. He served as lead regulatory scientist for the Strategic Innovation Group (SIG) at Booz Allen Hamilton (GS-15) and Senior Research Health Scientist (GS-14) for Outpatient Psychiatry at the James J. Peters Veteran Affairs Medical Center in The Bronx, NY. Simultaneously, he held dual appointments as a Senior Research Associate at ISMMS and as a grant administrator for all active NIH and DoD awards for Rachel Yehuda (Vice-chair of Psychiatry Department). He was responsible for managing the scientific portfolio for a large multi-center clinical trial research in PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injuries) which totaled $45M under the VA Cooperative Study Research Program and the Department of Defense. Prior to working at the VA, he served as acting Branch Chief (GS-13/14) for the Ob/Gyn, Gastroenterology, and Urology Divisions in the Center for Device and Radiological Health at the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Mr. Henriques earned a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Howard University, graduating magna cum laude. He enjoys soccer, reading and listening to reggae music. He is the proud father of four daughters including twins who are currently attending college.
Rafsan Huseynov has a bachelor’s in economics from Azerbaijan Cooperation University and a master’s in economics from the Sapienza University of Rome, as well as a PMP certification from the Project Management Institute. While he was completing his bachelor’s, he worked as a project coordinator for a marketing firm that managed critical projects funded by the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan. After graduation, he became a business development manager at Gorgud Plaza & Hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan. After developing an interest in manufacturing, he became a procurement/capture manager at Woodpecker Furniture Company, one of the largest furniture companies in the South Caucasus region. There, he led a team of eight procurement professionals. In 2016, he moved to Italy to earn his master’s degree in economics and to represent Woodpecker Furniture Company as a business development manager in Europe. In 2018, he moved to the US to improve his English and write his master thesis. In 2020, he graduated with his master’s degree defending the topic “US Space Technology and Growth”. Away from work, Rafsan is an avid skier and enjoys hiking through national parks.
Kirsten Laha-Walsh is a Navy veteran, caregiver, and currently pursuing her PhD in Social Work with a focus on the military and veteran connected populations. A native of San Diego, California, Kirsten is a third generation Navy veteran and the daughter of a retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CWO4). She is also the primary caregiver for her husband, a Purple Heart retired Marine. Kirsten’s experience in and around the military culture led her to pursue advocacy for transitioning veterans, including disenfranchised veterans, as well as caregivers. This led Kirsten to volunteering for the Alabama Head Injury Foundation, where she co-created a caregiver support program. She also currently serves on the Leadership Council for the Central Alabama Veterans Collaborative. Kirsten graduated in 2019 with her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California, where she received a certificate in the Military and Veteran Program. Her current pursuits are aimed at providing education and knowledge around opioid and substance use within the veteran population as well as identity issues surrounding military service. Her dissertation focus is on how the act of a combat kill impacts the psyche of the military member and impacts their lives after service. She advocates for education and resource services for veterans about benefits and seeks to find ways to unite organizations to provide stronger methods of support.
Mike Lavigne is a native of Cobleskill, NY, and a 28 year veteran of the U.S. Army. A former infantryman turned award-winning Army broadcaster, Mike has reported from the Korean demilitarized zone to the post 9/11 battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as humanitarian missions in Thailand and Sri Lanka. He’s a veteran of The Old Guard, the American Forces Networks in Korea, Germany and Iraq, and the storied 1st Infantry Division. Lavigne has served as a senior communications adviser at both combined joint task force headquarters in Iraq and Afghanistan, and at the highest levels of the Army. Lavigne earned a MA in Leadership Studies from the University of Texas at El Paso and a BA in Communications from Thomas Edison State College, and is a past Army Broadcast Journalist of the Year.
Erin Scanlon is a retired Army Field Artillery Captain who served 5 years in the 82nd Airborne Division and 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After experiencing military sexual trauma…testifying as the victim at a military court-martial…and experiencing the outcomes of a problematic judicial system, Erin has turned her traumas into lessons to advocate for other Military members and victims of sexual assault. Erin has been an advocate at every level by helping others one on one, conducting training, advising law enforcement and military commanders- and even helping to inspire the Vanessa Guillen Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act, which is currently on the desk of Congress. Erin is originally from Scottsdale, Arizona, and attended The University of Arizona where she completed ROTC and a Bachelor of Science in Family Studies and Human Development. She is currently completing a Master of Policy Management at Georgetown University, while working as a Veteran Team Leader for the Lone Survivor Foundation.
Originally from North Carolina, Rich Strauss joined the US Marine Corps in 2006 and served three tours overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. After five years of service, his experiences both overseas and at home brought him to study the ongoing mental health issues in the military and veteran communities. In 2019, Rich graduated from George Mason University with a Bachelors of Science in Clinical Psychology. During that time, he became involved in community engagement and government affairs. After working as an intern at the Office of Veteran’s Affairs in DC, he now advocates for mental health reform in the military and veteran communities.